A second generation recipe passed down from mother to daughter is perfect to warm you up on a chilly night or when a light yet filling meal is desired. Easy turkey meatloaf combines a variety of ingredients to yield a tasty dinner that’s super easy and quick to fix, too, in just 10 minutes. Recipe developer Ashley Schuering and her hubby work full time and when they arrive home too tired to cook, this speedy recipe is the one that beckons to her.
"There are some nights that we are so beat that the thought of cooking is daunting. I love having quick and easy recipes to turn to — like this one that I know are comforting but still healthy enough to not feel guilty," she said.
There’s also a surprise ingredient or two in Schuering’s recipe that you might not expect in a meatloaf, and it’s heartening to find it’s made with a health-friendly ground turkey versus traditional ground beef. Either meat could be used, but this recipe calls for the leaner protein. Trust us, you’ll want to give it a whirl!
Prep the base of your turkey meatloaf recipe
Assembling the turkey meatloaf takes no time at all, so before getting your hands messy, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, take two slices of bread (any kind), and in a bowl, tear it into pieces.
"I’ve made it with everything from hot dog buns to Ezekiel sprouted grains bread. Generally speaking, I’d recommend something that doesn’t have any nuts or seeds, as these will show up in the meatloaf, but other than that, use what you have on hand. Stale bread is fine, but it might require a little extra milk for soaking. It’s a great way to use up the heels of the bread, too," Schuering said.
Smother the turkey meatloaf base with milk
Soak the pieces of bread for approximately three minutes in one-fourth to one-half of a cup of milk. While Schuering prefers whole milk, any type will do. Just make sure that every piece of bread is covered by the milk.
"Growing up, my mom bought exclusively two percent milk. In my house, it’s always whole fat. Anything from skim to whole should work. If you’re a dairy free family, any unsweetened non-dairy milk should do," Schuering said. Once the bread is soaked, squeeze out the milk from the pieces of bread and toss out any leftover milk.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the meat for your turkey meatloaf
It’s now time to combine the milk-soaked bread with one pound of fresh ground turkey or chicken to make this super easy meatloaf recipe.
"My mom always used exclusively ground turkey or ground chicken when we were growing up. While she didn’t believe in the whole ‘low fat diet,’ she did avoid red meat as much as possible. This recipe is the same as my mom made for us when I was little, and it is so light, fluffy and delicious that all other meatloaf recipes pale in comparison. I’ve been making it ever since," she said.
Add some surprise ingredients to the turkey meatloaf
Chop up one large onion, mix it with one can of drained kernel corn and one packet of taco seasoning. Mash the ingredients together using your hands until well blended.
"I like yellow onions for this recipe because of their inherent sweetness, but I’ve made this with white and red onions, too, and it turns out great. I say use what you have on hand to make this as simple and quick to get on the table as possible," Schuering explained. "I prefer buying organic wherever possible, but I also know that’s kind of a bougie attitude. Growing up, organic hadn’t become a big trend yet, and all three of us kids turned out just fine. Use any canned kernel corn (not creamed) that you’ve drained, or sub in frozen corn kernels instead."
Schuering noted that she prefers to spice up her taco seasoning with cayenne or ghost peppers. If buying premade in a packet, be sure to select the level of hotness tolerated by the family.
Blending and forming the turkey meatloaf
Shape the concoction into a loaf in a 9×13-inch pan treated with nonstick cooking spray. Not everyone is a fan of touching and mixing the raw meat with their bare hands, so Schuering offered a less messy suggestion.
"If you’re squeamish, an old school potato masher should do the trick. Ostensibly you could also use a hand mixer, but it might end up flinging meat bits about the room which is less than ideal," Schuering jokingly said.
Time to mix the turkey meatloaf topping
Blend half of a cup of ketchup, preferably organic without added sugar, half a cup of brown sugar and one-fourth to one-half of a teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated. Slather the topping across the loaf as easily as possible and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour or until a thermometer reaches 165 degrees in the center.
"Honestly, we grew up with the corn syrup laden stuff and it turned out fine. I personally try to get the organic, no-sugar added stuff, but that’s just our preference. If you use the traditional ketchup, maybe add a few tablespoons less sugar if it doesn’t offend you to hold back," Schuering said.
The nutmeg gives this recipe a twist on taste, too.
"Nutmeg has this yummy, warm flavor that I absolutely love. It’s awesome in everything from baked goods to cauliflower soup. In this recipe, it adds a little depth of flavor to the sweet ketchup topping. If you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry about it," Schuering said.
Be sure your turkey meatloaf is cooked all the way through
It’s sometimes difficult to determine if a dish is completely cooked through in the middle, since this has a reddish hue to it from the ketchup and brown sugar, along with the taco seasoning. It’s important to not just cook the meatloaf for the appropriate amount of time, but also to check the internal temperature.
"In terms of food safety, 165 degrees Fahrenheit is what any poultry needs to hit before serving. Remember the mantra ‘If it flies … 165.’ This will help to eliminate any chance of foodborne illness when working with chicken or turkey," she said.
Your turkey meatloaf is ready to serve
This recipe accommodates six to eight hungry diners and, considering it’s full of protein, it fills you up quite easily. Schuering said everyone at her house loves the turkey meatloaf recipe.
"Both of my brothers also love making this family favorite pretty often. It is a perfect recipe to keep in your back pocket for when you have zero motivation or creativity left," she said. This dish can be dressed up with a healthy side salad or eaten with a simple veggie dish such as green beans or hearty mashed potatoes.
- 2 slices bread (~75g), torn into pieces
- ¼ to ½ of a cup of milk (enough to soak bread — depends on type of bread and how stale it is)
- 1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 can kernel corn, drained
- 1 packet taco seasoning (¼ of a cup)
- ½ cup of ketchup (preferably organic, no sugar added)
- ½ cup of Brown Sugar
- ¼ to ½ of a teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
- Soak bread for about 3 minutes with enough milk to touch all pieces. Squeeze at the end of 3 minutes and discard any leftover milk.
- Add turkey, diced onion, drained corn and taco seasoning. Mash together until uniform.
- Shape mixture into a loaf in a 9x-13-inch baking dish coated with nonstick spray.
- Mix together your sauce topping ingredients (ketchup, brown sugar, and nutmeg). Slather the sauce on top of the meatloaf as evenly as possible.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until thermometer reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the center.